Ralph Towner / Wolfgang Muthspiel / Slava Grigoryan
Travel Guide
ECM ****

An inspired three-guitarist album, with ECM veteran Towner joined for the first time on a recording of the label’s by Austria-born Muthspiel and the Melbourne-raised Kazakh Grigoryan, the three began to tour together in 2005, and released From a Dream on Muthspiel’s own label Material Records four years later before recording Travel Guide in the Swiss city of Lugano last year. The classical and 12-string guitars of Towner, electric guitar of Muthspiel, and Grigoryan's classical/baritone guitars weave a delicious spell here. With five of the compositions by a confident-sounding Muthspiel and five too by the masterful Towner, it's an album that while gentle at times has a subtle power all of its own and some sumptuous melodies intricately arranged off-set only by brittle textures and that faraway atmosphere Towner has made his own. On a tune of Towner’s such as ‘Duende’, perhaps the composition that sticks in the memory most, there is a drama and an unfolding sweep to it that alternates with the sunnier themes elsewhere; and you could imagine a lyrical saxophonist transforming the rising lines and slightly exultant initial anthemic feel of ‘Amarone Trio’ (flavoured later by Muthspiel's early music-like vocals) into a different improvisational space altogether. All three are giving directions rather than taking them on this particular travel guide, it has that optimism and life force. MB
Released on Monday 23 September